I met an absurdly large pig while visiting a local pumpkin patch a few days ago, and we developed something of a bond over the course of the ten minutes I spent watching him be gross. I’d give him a corncob, and he’d eat it happily, but only after thrusting it to the bottom of a two-foot deep pit of mud. He would snort in delight, I would snort back in solidarity. Time stood still. I felt a connection with the pig, even while surrounded by the frightened gasps of children and parents disgusted by his unprecedented filthiness. How could this creature enjoy rolling back and forth in refuse and eating entire troughs of unidentified slop? He was nothing more than an abject insult to all things they considered decent. A monster. Yet I identified with him. Why?
Because that pig wasn’t just a pig, dudes. That pig was you and me. We too have an affinity for what others find foul and repellent. How often do we take pride in the fact that adjectives like “filthy” and “repulsive” translate to the highest compliments in our music reviews? How often do we complain about production being too polished or too clean? We’re pigs. And we like it nasty.
The guys in Pyre are cut from the same never-washed cloth, and their debut full-length, Human Hecatomb, is an ode to nasty. It’s determined to free you from the sparkling, soullessly overproduced trash stacking up around you every day. Pyre opt for stomping the ever-loving shit out of the ancient path, now unfortunately less traveled, in both production and style. Though hailing from Saint Petersburg, Russia, they’ve clearly made their pilgrimage to Sweden to worship at the shrine of the Boss HM-2, and their guitars have been endowed with the power of the buzzsaw tone originated by Nihilist and later Entombed.
But — and pay attention here OSDM revival bands — nailing your guitar tone isn’t all it takes to make a good album. Believe it or not, songwriting is important in death metal, and if you’re willing to learn, Pyre can teach you what you need to know. In Human Hecatomb, riffs interact with coherence, solos are right where they belong, and smart pacing keeps the listener engaged all the way through.
Album opener “Merciless Disease” kicks things off with a sloppy bass drive, eventually joined by a Martin Van Drunen-inspired growl and an appropriately Asphyx-ish groove, which sticks around just long enough to wear out its welcome before a quick transition takes us to higher speeds. That breakneck-but-systematic deviation is one of many illustrations of Pyre’s deathgrip on songwriting and exactly the kind of thing that manages to keep a worn out, 20 year-old style interesting in Human Hecatomb.
You’ll find that Pyre puts more stock in the heavy mid-paced stomp than Dismember or Unleashed did. In classic albums like Where No Life Dwells, those bangers were held in reserve and unleashed sparingly. When they did pop up, they packed a serious punch. Here, they’re pretty much everywhere. While some of that novelty is lost in the glut, the riffs are so well-designed that it’s essentially a non-issue. When you hear the ones in “Flesh to Poles” and “Cursed Bloodline,” you’ll scowl, nod in appreciation of adept riffcraft, and wish they lasted forever. There’s still plenty of tremoloblasting and doomy, Autopsy-borrowed dirges to balance them out, often overlaid with the reverbed-out, slithering-entrail leads reminiscent of fellow revivalists Repugnant.
Dym Nox’s vocals are just what the doctor ordered, generally switching off between channeling the aforementioned Van Drunen and a more deranged, phlegm-spewing Chris Reifert. His voice is an effective vehicle for the delivery of those catchy old-school choruses directly to your brain, to which they’re bound to cling like a viscus slime. “Merciless Disease,” “We Came to Spill Thy Blood,” and “Disturbia” take you back to a simpler time, when you could buy a candy bar for a quarter and death metal choruses were just the song title growled repeatedly over a filthy riff.
You’re not going to find anything new or groundbreaking here. If you’re looking for something fresh, look elsewhere. Human Hecatomb is old, nasty, and rotten, but it’s old, nasty, and rotten done right. I dare not flush it.